Occupational Therapy For Kids

Occupational Therapy for Kids

Occupational therapy can help kids who have trouble with everyday activities at home or school. It’s also important if your child’s behavior doesn’t match their age. For example, if they’re slower than other kids their age at doing things. Occupational therapy is like a special program that helps kids get better at all the things they need to do. It’s like a fun game where they learn new skills! Sometimes, kids also need speech therapy to help them with talking. Occupational therapy and speech therapy are both really helpful for kids who need a little extra support.

Occupational Therapists, or OTs, help kids with many different issues related to behavior and development. They focus on things like how well children can pay attention, how they process information through their senses, the things they do every day (also known as activities of daily living or ADLs), how they see and understand things, and how well they can use their small and big muscles. It’s like they are superheroes who work with kids to help them grow and become stronger!

One important thing to mention is that OTs are different from Speech Therapists, who work with kids on their speech and language skills. Both types of therapy are super helpful for kids and can make a big difference in their lives!

So, you never hear someone talking about Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy. In that case, you’ll know that they are talking about some amazing ways to help kids learn, grow, and have fun!

What are Sensory Processing Issues?

Children with sensory processing issues struggle to put together information from their senses. Our bodies receive input from seven senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, body awareness, and movement. These senses help us understand and interact with the world around us. When a child has difficulty with this, speech therapy and occupational therapy can be helpful. These therapies provide support and strategies to improve how the senses work together. So, if you or someone you know is dealing with sensory processing issues, speech therapy and occupational therapy can make a big difference!

Children who struggle to regulate sensory input often fall into two categories: those who are hypersensitive (excessively sensitive to stimuli) and those who are hypersensitive (insufficiently sensitive).

Hypersensitive kids can have strong reactions to things like light, sound, taste, touch, and smell. This means that these things can make them feel overwhelmed and want to be alone. They might not want to play with others at the gym, during recess, or even at lunch because it makes them really anxious. It can also be hard for them to pay attention and join in during class because even the buzzing of the lights can be distracting.

Sometimes, speech therapy and occupational therapy can help these kids feel better and learn how to cope with these feelings. These therapies can help them find ways to manage their reactions and feel more comfortable in different situations.

Children with hypersensitivity may exhibit compensatory overactive behavior to make up for the lack of sensory stimulation. As a result, they may frequently bump into others, exhibit restless movements, collide with objects, and create noise. Conversely, an under-sensitive child (also hypersensitive) may be perceived as disruptive as they consistently seek sensory stimulation. Unfortunately, these children are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD due to their disruptive behavior.

Enhancing Sensory Skills in Children: The Impact of Occupational Therapy

When an occupational therapist works with kids who are hypersensitive or hypersensitive, they use different approaches. For a child who gets overstimulated easily, the therapist might suggest using separate rooms for sitting and testing. This helps control the stimuli and prevents sensory overload. It’s like having a special space where everything feels just right for you! Occupational therapy and speech therapy are important for helping kids with these challenges. So, by using these therapies, we can make sure kids feel comfortable and happy in their environment.

Occupational therapists suggest engaging in sensory activities, such as swinging, jumping on trampolines, and crashing into beanbags in places like gyms to help children who are under-sensitive. In school, they may also recommend taking short breaks for sensory input, like walking, stretching, or doing light exercises like jumping jacks. These activities can be super fun and help children feel better! It’s like giving their bodies a special kind of workout. This is all part of speech therapy and occupational therapy, which are important for kids. Let’s keep exploring and learning more about how our bodies work!

Fidgets and jewelry can prove advantageous for hypersensitive children. For instance, chewable pencil tops are among the products that aid in soothing their nerves and redirecting their attention to the present task.

Even though it’s controversial, giving the skin a brush and doing joint compressions can help calm down hypersensitive kiddos. These actions are believed to “rewire” the brain, helping children handle sensory stimulation better.

It might not be easy to decide whether a child is hypersensitive or hypersensitive. According to experts, children who excel in certain circumstances but face difficulties in others may exhibit indications of a sensory processing disorder. 

How Occupational Therapy Helps Kids with Motor Skills

Motor skills can be split into two categories: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. One focuses on the big muscle groups and can impact balance and coordination. The other is all about strength and agility, especially in the hands.

Fine Motor Skills

Children who grapple with deficient fine motor skills often encounter difficulties when it comes to manipulating writing instruments, engaging in intricate tasks such as stringing beads and utilizing scissors. These limitations can hinder their ability to participate in basic academic activities, making even the simple act of turning a page a daunting task. 

However, fine motor skills are not only crucial in a child’s academic life but also in everyday activities. From using cutlery to buttoning shirts and zipping pants or bags, these skills play a vital role. 

Occupational therapists (OTs) employ various engaging methods to help children develop and refine their fine motor skills. For example, they may use dot-to-dot painting activities to enhance a child’s pincer grasp, which in turn improves their ability to handle pens, pencils, and utensils. Other activities, such as picking up coins with one hand or practicing shoe lacing, not only teach children to manipulate small objects effectively but also enhance their visual focus. 

Including board games such as Operation can greatly contribute to the development of fine motor skills, particularly in preschoolers. By using tweezers, children can refine their pincer grasp and achieve a steadier hold. Additionally, OTs may utilize Thera putty with varying resistance levels to help children build finger strength and enhance hand dexterity. 

Overall, the journey of developing fine motor skills is vital for children. With the guidance of OTs, they can overcome these challenges and unlock their full potential.

Gross Motor Skills 

When a child’s gross motor skills are not developed adequately, it can significantly affect their movement, balance, strength, coordination, and endurance. These fundamental abilities directly impact their capacity to walk, run, jump, hop, throw, and catch objects. Furthermore, it can hinder their participation in recess and after-school sports, potentially causing a gradual decline in self-esteem. Ultimately, it may impede their overall progress and development.

If children are unable to participate in the same activities as their friends, they may become withdrawn. Occupational Therapists (OTs) have effective strategies to address this issue. One approach is to introduce different sizes of balls for throwing and catching, helping children adapt and still enjoy the experience. Additionally, OTs may suggest obstacle courses, which significantly enhance balance and coordination.

To boost strength and endurance, OTs might hook you up with a tricycle. Sometimes, OTs team up with physiotherapists since both professions share techniques vital for developing gross motor skills. OTs also take on challenges like weak muscles and lack of core strength, which can mess with a kid’s ability to sit up straight. Good posture not only helps you participate better in class but also amps up your focus and alertness. OTs throw in therapy balls, curls, and crab walking to strengthen your core and keep you going strong. 

How Occupational Therapists Teach Kids Self-Reliance (Self-Help Skills)

Acquiring self-help skills necessitates the mastery of fine motor skills, as these abilities play a vital role in fostering children’s self-reliance. For instance, mastering tasks such as buttoning and zipping clothes, as well as tying shoelaces, empowers children to dress and undress independently.

Grooming encompasses various skills such as hair brushing or combing, teeth brushing, and toilet usage. Similarly, eating entails the development of motor skills as children learn to hold and manipulate utensils. An occupational therapist employs diverse techniques to assist children in practicing and mastering these fundamental yet crucial abilities.

Coping with sensory processing issues adds complexity to a child’s challenges. Teaching self-help skills, such as managing discomfort with wetness or restrictive clothing, may require additional therapy.

For some children, having anything in their mouth can be a significant challenge, hindering the development and refinement of their daily activities. However, some strategies can help alleviate the difficulties they face. For instance, choosing to shop during off-peak hours might be more suitable for a hypersensitive child, while switching to a different toothpaste could help reduce their aversion to brushing their teeth. By implementing these approaches, we can make these processes more manageable for the child while still achieving the desired outcomes.

Acquiring self-help skills necessitates time and patience. Nevertheless, it is vital to recognize the significance of providing assistance to your child when they encounter difficulties with fundamental activities like dressing, grooming, and eating.

Where Can You Find an OT for Kids?

In most cases, occupational therapists for kids (OTs) are commonly found in schools, where they play a vital role both inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, they diligently observe and collaborate with children to create a nurturing environment that supports their learning journey. They address sensory and motor challenges, ensuring that these difficulties do not hinder the children’s overall educational experience. By working closely with students, these dedicated professionals help optimize the learning environment and promote the holistic development of young minds.

Frequently, the child may be invited for a dedicated one-on-one session outside the classroom, especially for refining fine and gross motor skills, as well as visiting a sensory gym. This personalized approach ensures comprehensive development while fostering an enriching environment.

Indeed, numerous occupational therapists (OTs) offer therapeutic services within specialized sensory gyms, exclusively tailored to meet the needs of children aged three and above. These dedicated spaces offer a wide range of therapeutic tools and equipment to facilitate sensory integration and enhance developmental skills. However, it’s important to note that for children under the age of three, home-based therapy is typically recommended to ensure a comfortable and familiar environment for their therapeutic sessions.

What are the main swallowing problems?

Swallowing is a three-stage process. Swallowing disorders develop when you have an issue in one or a combination of these stages.

  • The oral phase is the first stage that involves chewing, sucking, and moving your food or drinking into your throat.
  • Pharyngeal phase – This second phase involves what happens when you start swallowing and squeezing the food down the throat. Here, it would help if you closed off the airway to block the liquid or food from choking you.
  • Esophageal is the third stage. The phase involves closing and opening the tube that goes from your mouth to the stomach (esophagus). The primary function of the esophagus is to push food down to the stomach. If the muscles do not function properly, the food can be stuck in this tube, blocking the airways. Blockage in the esophagus can also make you throw up.

Swallowing problems can appear at any stage, although they are most common in the elderly. Dysphasia has many causes, and the treatment often depends on the condition causing it. The primary condition that causes swallowing problems includes:

Swallowing problems can appear at any stage, although they are most common in the elderly. Dysphasia has many causes, and the treatment often depends on the condition causing it. The primary condition that causes swallowing problems includes:

  1. Damage to the part of the brain or nerves resulting from any of these conditions/diseases
  • Brain injury
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Friedreich ataxia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  1. Problems with your head or neck, such as:
  • Mouth, esophagus, or throat cancer
  • Poor dentition such as missing teeth, decaying teeth, or dentures that do not fit well
  • Neck or mouth surgery
  1. Medication that causes a dry mouth, making it hard to swallow and chew

Why do people with swallowing problems need dysphagia therapy?

Swallowing problems often cause food and drinks to become lodged in the airway. For most individuals, a small amount of saliva falling into the airways triggers a reflexive cough. While this may not do you any harm, this is not the case for individuals who have had a stroke or other neurological diseases that may harm their body reflexes. This means that their protective reflexes, such as coughing, may not work. As such, food and drinks may fall into the open airway causing numerous illnesses.

The lungs are moist and warm, thus creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. When the food and beverages fall into the lungs, these individuals are at risk of having aspiration pneumonia. When left untreated, this condition is fatal. The patient is often put under nil by mouth in hospitals, meaning that they are not capable of eating or drinking until a swallow and speech pathologist assesses their swallowing safety.

This is where we come in. At SoCal speech and swallow therapy center, we are committed to helping individuals swallow problems to manage the condition once discharged from the hospital. Our speech and swallow therapist may suggest the following modifications to manage an ongoing swallowing problem.

  • Modifying food texture and drink thickness
  • Recommending the correct sitting positions during mealtimes
  • Therapy exercises that strengthen the muscles used while swallowing
  • Teaching the various patient techniques to use while swallowing

A patient with an acquired brain injury will benefit from swallow therapy as it will help them strengthen the muscles that coordinate swallowing. Individuals suffering from deteriorating or progressive conditions such as Parkinson’s disease will also need the intervention of a speech and swallow pathologist. A swallowing therapy program can provide strategies to compensate for the weak muscles. At the SoCal therapy center, we also teach the caregiver how to modify the food texture and drink thickness. Our mission is to help the patient enjoy a happy life by ensuring that they enjoy their drinks and food without compromising their health.

Signs of dysphagia and when to seek help

So when do you need to seek help? If you or your loved one has the following signs, they may be suffering from dysphagia.

  • Constant coughing during or immediately after eating or drinking
  • Struggling to chew or swallow. The person may use be forced to use extra effort or more time to chew and swallow food
  • A gurgled or wet sounding voice after eating and drinking
  • Excessive saliva in the mouth
  • Food or drinks leaking from your mouth onto your cloth
  • Having difficulties breathing during or after meals
  • Rapid weight loss

Having a problem doing simple things such as eating can be embarrassing. Most often, you or your loved one may want to eat alone. Individuals with swallowing problems may also experience the following:

  • Poor nutrition that causes rapid weight loss
  • Dehydration since they are not capable of swallowing
  • Pneumonia and other lung infections

Swallowing Assessment

Screening people with one or a combination of the signs mentioned is vital to avoid malnutrition, choking, and other complications such as pneumonia. At SoCal speech and swallow therapy center, our highly skilled pathologist will assess to see how you eat and drink. Like other diseases, when swallowing difficulties are identified early, our specialist can tailor care and treatment that responds to the specific needs of the patient. Our speech therapist will ask you a series of questions to help them develop a detailed assessment of your swallowing abilities. Here are some of the things that you can expect from our assessment.

  • The speech therapist will ask you about your health. Here you will discuss things such as past surgeries, illnesses, and past swallowing problems.
  • The specialist will also perform an oral-motor assessment, which mainly involves investigating the functioning of your cranial nerves and assessing the anatomy and physiology of the muscles responsible for the swallowing process.
  • Our speech and swallow therapist will also assess the capability of your swallowing muscles when handling foods and drinks with different textures
  • People with swallowing problems use extra effort when eating and swallowing. Our swallowing pathologist will assess how you are swallowing change when the muscles become fatigued.
  • We will also review how you implement our recommended swallowing strategies when eating and drinking
  • The specialist will also recommend further testing if the need arises

What does dysphagia therapy involve?

We understand, no two patients’ conditions are the same. As such, we strive to come up with a personalized therapy program that meets your unique needs. SoCal speech and swallow therapists will work with you to ensure that you take your meals and drink safely. Our swallowing therapy combines various techniques and treatment that helps to strengthen your swallowing muscles. The therapy involves

  • Treating your swallowing/chewing muscles
  • Training the patient on ways to sit and hold their head when eating or drinking
  • Testing differently textured foods and finding the ones that have an easy texture for you to swallow safely.

Our speech and swallow therapist will typically book you in a block of sessions that runs about 45 minutes. We also perform the swallow therapy sessions at the comfort of your home. The home-based swallow therapy sessions will help the patient to use familiar cutlery. We will also engage the caregivers to help them understand your condition and teach them how they can help you manage it. We may also refer you to other health professionals who will help manage other conditions associated with your swallowing problems. These medical professionals include;

  • General Practitioner (GP) to manage an underlying condition
  • Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) to review possible reflux
  • Dietitian who ensure that the patient gets enough hydration and nutrition
  • A pharmacist who will help in managing your swallowing tablet medications

Our swallowing therapy program is designed to help avoid dehydration, choking, aspiration pneumonia while ensuring that they get their daily dietary requirements. Our speech and swallow pathologists use advanced current methods and modalities to ensure that the patient swallows safely. Through our intensive dysphagia therapy, our goal is to assist the patient in regaining their independence.Damage to the part of the brain or nerves resulting from any of these conditions